When Hank Cazier, a 19-year-old student from Idaho, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, he wasn’t sure he’d live long enough to realize his dream of becoming a model.
Since his diagnosis in 2015, he’s had 31 rounds of radiation, intensive chemotherapy treatments and brain surgery. After losing nearly all his motor abilities following the surgery, Cazier has been in physical, occupational and speech therapy, which he has been attending almost every day for five years.
The physical and emotional stress had turned his life upside down, and he was struggling to find anything worth looking forward to.
That’s when Make-A-Wish Idaho and Macy’s teamed up to make his dream come true.
“He hoped that through his wish [of becoming a model] he would be able to overcome his self-doubt and become more confident in his abilities,” Macy’s spokesperson Sheikina Liverpool told CNN.
In August, Cazier was flown to New York City where he took part in a two-day photoshoot for Macy’s annual holiday campaign. He was styled by the Macy’s fashion team, learned how to model, and worked with “top talent in the industry,” according to Macy’s.
On Wednesday, a limousine picked up Cazier and his family from their home before taking them to a surprise unveiling of a billboard featuring his photo in Idaho Falls.
Cazier already knew he was going to be included in Macy’s holiday gift guide but had no idea he’d also be featured on a billboard in his hometown.
After the unveil, the family was driven to Macy’s at Grand Teton Mall, where Cazier was greeted by fans asking him to autograph copies of their Macy’s holiday gift guide.
Cazier said the experience was better than he could have imagined.
“This was a dream of mine and I never thought I’d actually make it a reality,” Cazier said in a speech during the mall event.
“I am so humbled and grateful for the opportunity that I have had to work with Make-A-Wish and Macy’s,” he told CNN. “It has been a huge growing experience for me, and I would even consider it to be life changing.”